Sometimes You Need Bubbles

 

Points of this weekend were too much.

Open House.

No buyers.

Driving three hours round trip for 20 minutes of work (worth it, for the record).

A Sunday night work commitment that is a cool opportunity (guest on a live radio show) but throwing a wrench into the routine here.

Tough decision that I would probably cancel running in my favorite race next month for financial considerations.

Driving around for two hours with dog (and laundry) in car to avoid prospective buyers at open house.

Went for family walk and son (with scooter) had unfortunate direct contact with pavement.

Sigh.

Sometimes you need to blow bubbles. So we did.

(Trixie said I looked like I was smoking here. I am not).

 

 

I hope you’re having a magical weekend.

 

 

 

 

The Real Estate Waiting Game

And it’s happening: Fancy Pants Ranch is on the market.

A little background: when Spouse and I were first married – nearly 19 years ago – we lived in an outdated 600 square foot apartment that we jokingly dubbed “Fancy Pants Ranch.”

The name stuck with every place we’ve lived since.

(For my birthday a year or two ago, Spouse had this logo created through an online contest for graphic designers. There were hundreds of entries but this is the one we selected as the winner).

We’ve been in the current iteration of Fancy Pants Ranch since 2008. When we moved to this city, we planned to be here three years (which morphed into nine) and then move on. We’re finally getting around to that plan.

Our house buying process in 2008 was hurried. We needed a place to live. This house was available. It was a new spec house built by a local contractor. After being burned in the past by long, traffick-y commutes (Hello, San Antonio!) and a decrepit old house that was beyond repair (our first stab at home ownership, a tiny brick cottage in Denver, CO, that we owned from 2002-2005), we wanted proximity to work and something new, new, new. 

This fit the bill. Mostly.

For one thing, this house is not really our style. Spouse and I like modern. This is traditional.

Still, we stayed. We have great neighbors. There wasn’t a compelling reason to move to another house in the same city. We’re fundamentally lazy, and let’s face it, moving is a pretty awful process.

But now it’s time to go.

We started by meeting with a realtor about two weeks ago. This was a different realtor than the one who sold us the house in 2008, and that was by choice. We thought our original realtor was nice and did a good job at the time of purchase, but looking back, there were warning signs. For one thing, she drove an old Buick. I don’t know much about being a realtor – and I would love to have realtors chime in – but my cursory study seems to suggest that having a flashy car is important to project success, especially when you spend a lot of time driving clients around in it. Our new realtor has shown up in two different Mercedes on the two visits she’s made to our house. That seems optimistic.

During her first visit, our new realtor informed us that the real estate market is on fire for sellers, we should have already listed our home two weeks ago, and she predicted it would sell for full price in one day.

Then came the pain: we needed to replace several windows ($26,000), and refinish several others ($1800), repaint several rooms ($1000), clean the carpets ($350), buy a new dishwasher ($700), buy a new dryer ($500), mitigate radon (unsure of price tag at this point, and side note: is this a new scam? I swear it is), do some electrical work (price unknown), do some yard work ($2500), find a dog sitter ($20/day), and declutter/deep clean/pack and organize to within an inch of our lives. 

(A word about the window situation, which is really the most disappointing thing: apparently there is a common, well-known problem with houses similar in age to ours, namely that the windows can collect moisture and rot the wood. Our new realtor told us that we narrowly missed the warranty period for the windows – and we are talking either a matter of a few months or possibly even weeks – that may have let us replace them for free. She told us that our original realtor should have clearly informed us about the warranties, etc, which is something we never knew about. This $26,000 oversight is one of the reasons we are not using the original realtor again. Huge sigh).

We were also given a deadline of a little over a week to get things in order. We worked like crazy, hiring painters, carpet cleaners, a home inspector, junk haulers and had two of our college aged nephews over for a weekend of packing and organizing.

We got it done.

The master bedroom closet alone required about 10 hours of sorting, eight plastic totes of clothes and shoes placed in storage, three bags of garbage and two trips worth of donations to Goodwill. 

And here’s what happened: nothing.

The day the listing went live (last Wednesday), I held my breath. Before we left for work, Spouse and I both got sweaty getting everything to the immaculate state that a showing required.

When none materialized, I thought that a weekend sale seemed likely. Friday rolled around. No showings. Saturday dawned. We re-scrubbed and rubbed and prepped the place to perfection, then took the whole crew – dog included – to my mom’s lake place for the weekend, because surely, many interested buyers would be stopping by.

<<< Crickets. >>>

Finally on Sunday afternoon, we got two requests for showings. Both were inconveniently late in the day, but we accepted the times without question and pushed back our return home. The first showing was with our own realtor, showing the house to another client. The second was with a different agency.

On Monday, we had another showing during the day.

<<< More crickets. >>>

On Tuesday, our realtor said that she wanted to have an open house this weekend. We agreed.

We also received feedback that one buyer from Sunday (the one from the other agency) was considering several other houses. The Monday showing said that they were not interested, and that both the husband and wife commented that our master bedroom lacked natural light. Funnily enough (well, actually not funny), Spouse and I had recently had a similar conversation, that this house is too dark. But it’s that old situation where you can complain about something that is uniquely yours (like your family), but when an outsider does it, it stings and makes you defensive.

Here’s where I’m at with this situation right now:

  • Against my better judgment, a big part of me really believed the realtor when she said that the house would sell ASAP. That might sound ridiculous, but I had hope. It made me reflect on the long odds that some of my patients face in trying to build their families, and I thought about something I’ve said to patients many times:

As humans, we need hope to survive. Hope is what keeps us getting out of bed in the morning. Hope keeps us going when times are tough, because eventually we will most likely succeed if we keep moving forward.

And now I desperately need to take my own advice.

  • I can’t believe how much we got done in such short order. Wow. A week – and many extra hands – can work miracles. Everyone should do a mini version of this process every year. Is that what other people describe as spring cleaning? I wouldn’t know.
  • Selling a house is surprisingly expensive. If you’ve been keeping a tally, we’ve spent more than $30,000 to get the house ready. This unplanned expenditure, in the midst of all of the other expenses and challenges we are currently facing, is unwelcome.
  • I’m already sick of the buying and selling process. Like so many things in my life, it’s been humbling. Life lessons always seem to come to me in the not-easiest path.
  • When we move, we are NOT buying a house. I don’t want to feel the pressure to Just Buy NOW that we experienced when we came here. We want to take our time and get it right, even though that means living in a rental for a year or more. And if living in a rental means that I don’t have to wake up 45 minutes early each day to get it in pristine, model-home condition, all the better.

Please wish us luck in selling the Ranch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost and Not Found; Weekend Update

Once again, MGM (9) and Trixie (8) were up well before an acceptable hour on Saturday morning, a fact that continues to be an agonizing irony in our world since waking them for a school day is akin to poking two hibernating bears. 

They decided to use their valuable morning time to make a fort:

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This involves no fewer than 75% of the pillows in our house and is not going to be fun to clean up at the end of the weekend. They seemed to be happy and occupied while I drank coffee, though, so I let it slide.

On a different note, I was horrified to discover yesterday morning when I woke up in my hotel room that I had lost all of my cosmetics. This is especially painful because – as I’ve posted before – I spent a considerable effort to curate a set of travel cosmetics that worked really well for me, including limited edition mini brushes collated from several different brands.

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As I was getting ready for work and couldn’t find my cosmetics bag, I had the following thoughts:

  • Maybe it’s in my suitcase and I just didn’t find it. Commence ripping apart suitcase; do not find bag.
  • Maybe I left it at home. This seemed probable, although it did not solve my impromptu no make-up look problem.
  • Maybe I left it last week at the hotel where I’d stayed. Due to scheduling, favorable weather and kids who seemed extremely lonely, I’ve been home every night this week except Thursday, so while I had my suitcase packed all week and in my car, I hadn’t opened it. This means that the cosmetics bag could have been AWOL since last week and I hadn’t noticed yet.

In the interim, I was stuck without make-up, which shouldn’t really be that big of a deal since I don’t wear a lot, but I still felt a wee bit naked.

I decided to wear my funky glasses, which effectively limits the need for eye make-up, and I subbed a pink lipstick as cream blush. In the end, I probably didn’t look much different than I normally do, which is not saying much regarding my usual look.

A search at home also failed to locate the bag, so it looks like I’m starting over. Fortunately, Bobbi Brown is offering a great deal this weekend where you can create a free five piece mini beauty set (including choices of mascara, lip color, cheek color, eye shadow and makeup remover) with any $100 order. The site is also conveniently featuring a lot of travel minis, so replacing my stash is fairly easy.

Big Sigh for My Life. And Happy Weekend!

 

 

 

A Figurative Gut Punch

In case you’re wondering what it’s like to be simultaneously eviscerated and kicked in the teeth, it feels a lot like this:

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I found this note in MGM’s (9) room while gathering dirty socks and other laundry over the weekend.

Cue all the tears.

I knew that the transition to my new job and our new life would be hard, and it is.

While I don’t think it’s necessarily harder than I thought it would be, now that we’re in the hard part, it’s just really, really difficult.

I hugged both kids so tightly this weekend and told them that this is temporary and we’re building for something better, but I’m not sure they were convinced.

The only upside to this was that I’d already given away all of our Girl Scout cookies to our babysitter, or I probably would have eviscerated those Samoas.

Big sigh for my life.

44

 

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Via Getty images

Today I am 44, a palindromic event that happens only once every 11 years.

I need to remind myself that growing older is a privilege denied to many, but dang, 44 really seems on the wrong side of youth.

Time to step up my skin care game.

It’s funny how much things have changed in the past year. I left a job that I thought I would have forever and I survived that quite nicely. I’m living more authentically than ever, even though that involves some temporary hardship as I live apart from Spouse and my kiddos until the end of the school year. My new job is even better than I imagined, though, and I’m just getting started.

Here’s an anecdote to illustrate the profound difference:

Last week I had to stop by the bank to deposit a check. I’d renewed my medical license and paid dues to several medical organizations, and my new employer cut me a reimbursement check, made out to me with “Dr.” in front of my name.

I had to wait in line several minutes at the bank and chatted with a few people around me. The old me would have been irritated with the wait and I probably would not have engaged with fellow patrons. The new me is not angry and talks to strangers.

When it was my turn, the bank teller immediately commented that we have the same birthday (And Happy Birthday to you, Lakeisha, if you are reading this!)

We joked a bit about how I was probably two decades older and then she looked at the check and said – with surprise – “Are you a doctor?”

I affirmed and she asked me what kind.

I said OBGYN.

She said that she always wanted to be an OBGYN.

I told her she should go for it.

We bantered a bit and she said that someone close to her needed fertility treatment.

I told her that, in fact, infertility was my speciality, she asked me several more questions and then requested four of my cards to give to people she knew. She effusively thanked me.

In the end, we both wished each other Happy Birthdays and left as friends.

As I drove away, I was smiling and thinking about the encounter. I asked myself how I was feeling and the answer came immediately: happy.

It almost brought me to tears.

On one hand, I was saddened that I didn’t recognize happiness during an ordinary day such that I had to question the strange emotion I was experiencing. 

On the other, I realized how far I’d come from my old situation.

I wouldn’t have stopped to ask myself anything. I definitely would have been annoyed by the wait. Frankly, I wouldn’t have been in the bank in the first place because I would have been too busy during the day to go there. The check would have eventually been lost in a pile of papers on my desk and I would have been out of luck.

Again: things have changed.

I had dinner last night with a former colleague and one of my best friends. I shared this anecdote with him and said that the biggest difference now is that I feel like I live so much more of my life as the best version of myself. I smile more. I engage. I am open to people. I laugh all the time. I am always, authentically me.

It took 44 years to get here and I’m still a work in progress, but it feels good.

I’m still making skin care a top priority for 2017, though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hotel Living – Part 2

Last week I published thoughts on hotel living, but there’s still a lot to say.

I’m in a hotel as I type. Again.

So far, packing hasn’t been too difficult. I’ve been using this medium rolling duffel from eBags and I re-pack it every week.

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During the week I place dirty laundry into a plastic drawstring bag (hotel closets almost always have one in them for laundry) and when I am home on the weekends, I wash and re-pack some staples like workout wear, pajamas, etc.

I plan the upcoming week’s outfits while I do laundry. I plan these one at a time to the last detail, including jewelry and other accessories so that I don’t forget to pack anything. I’ve been using strategies on capsule wardrobe building from the excellent website Travel Fashion Girl. I try to limit my outfits to two different bottoms (this week it’s boring but versatile gray and black slim “Sloan” ankle pants from Banana Republic) and re-wear one top each week. This week I also packed one black blazer and will wear that twice, once with each pair of pants but a different top. In the end, I usually need 2 bottoms, 3-4 tops, 1 blazer or cardigan, and one extra sweater to keep warm. The capsule strategy works well because I work at one clinic four days of the week and the other one just once, so there aren’t many people who could tell I was recycling an outfit if I choose to do this. Packing with a capsule wardrobe has been a fun experiment, and I’ve discovered that I typically need much less than I think.

For shoes, I’m really coming around to the philosophy that boots are all you need. I typically bring two pairs of boots, wearing one and packing one. The styles rotate between my new pointy toed Steve Maddens, Chelsea boots (most versatile), and old pair of knee-length Born boots or my beloved Rag and Bone Newbury boots. An extra pair of running shoes also live in my bag, but these only see the gym.

I’ve been using this Hudson and Bleecker bag for toiletries, and I keep it stocked and packed at all times. I’d read about these bags on other blogs but the price – $88 – kept me away. I finally broke down and ordered one early last year, and I’ve been very impressed. The zippered outer bag opens wide to reveal two clear bags that snap into place. These can be removed and used separately, or the bag can be used on its own without the plastic liners. There is also a zippered pouch in the middle that is good for holding small essentials like a tweezer, nail clippers, etc. You can fit an incredible amount of stuff in here, even for a product junkie like me.

I have a massive supply of previously pilfered hotel toiletries and cosmetic samples, and so far I haven’t had to invest much in anything new. If something runs low, I write a list during the week and dip into my stash to re-strock the bag on the weekend.

I already had an extra set of makeup that I used to keep in my gym bag. Now I bring it with me. Everything fits into a small Kate Spade bag:

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The small square Bobbi Brown palette contains corrector, concealer, foundation and powder, all in one tiny (probably 3″ x 3″), compact. It’s perfect for travel. I bring one champagne eyeshadow and a bronze-y eyeshadow stick, both again from Bobbi Brown. Rounding the kit out are tinted moisturizer, a small cream blush from Beauty Counter and a powdered blush/bronzer combo from Bare Minerals.

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Image via QVC

The brushes I use are also all travel sized. I especially love the mini blush brush from Bare Minerals. This was from a set that I ordered from QVC (I know) once when I was sucked into their programming on a Saturday afternoon.

Working out hasn’t been difficult. Everywhere I’ve stayed so far has a reasonable gym, usually with treadmills and free weights, plus extras like Bosu balls, resistance bands, etc. There is no excuse to not work out, so I do. I’ve recently become obsessed with the Netflix show “Broadchurch” and told myself I could watch it as much as I want if I watched it only while exercising. At least for me, this is a great strategy to get in an extra 15 – or 45 – minutes on the treadmill. 

Eating has been more difficult. I am really trying not to eat in restaurants whenever possible, both to save money and calories. I really can’t afford to overindulge on a daily basis, but without cooking facilities at my disposal, it’s been a challenge. During the day, I have access to a breakroom kitchen at work, so I typically stock up on yogurt, fruit, string cheese, etc, for breakfasts and lunches. I brought a shaker bottle and protein shake mix, too, so this has been an easy meal or snack many times. For dinner I will often stop at a grocery store (Whole Foods or another local chain that is similar) and get a salad, sushi roll or something healthy. The main issue for me is knowing the nutritional value so that I don’t accidentally eat more than I planned. So far, I’ve also successfully avoided room service altogether. This is a major win, since indulging in room service in my PJs was something I loved to do when I traveled for my former job. Besides the generous per diem food allowance at my old job, the big difference with that was that work-related travel was a spontaneous – not constant – thing.

Since the weather’s cold here, I also pack my winter accessories well. I’ll mix up the scarves I bring (this week it’s a fuchsia cashmere one from J. Crew) and I also try to bring a bag that is versatile enough for work and social events.

The bag is a bright orange Prada tote. I love it, especially against a black coat in winter. It’s big enough to fit my laptop, too.

There are a few things I discovered were valuable items to keep with me at all times:

  • Warm, thick, fuzzy socks to keep my feet warm and clean in the hotel
  • A thin cardigan to wear in the (often chilly) hotel room
  • Tweezers
  • Nail Clippers
  • Wine opener (not that I’ve been drinking a lot of solo wine, it’s just an item that when you need it and don’t have it, you’re out of luck)
  • Extra contacts and a spare pair of glasses
  • Chargers for electronics
  • Dry shampoo (my life staple)
  • A bottle of vitamins. This is easier than packing a small container every week.

While I don’t plan to live in a hotel for much longer, it’s been an interesting time. I’ve tried to use it wisely, including exercising regularly and using down-time at night to do things I previously skipped like skin care masks, etc. This is mostly making lemonade out of the situation, because the reality is also that I miss my kids, Spouse, kitchen and warm bed tremendously. 

I’m looking forward to when we get this move completed and start our new life here together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flashback

Facebook regularly provides me – and everyone else – with flashback posts.

Over the weekend, this one cropped up from my 2011 feed. 

This was pre-blog, so my Facebook update was sort of a mini blog post, definitely more than typical FB standards but not the lengthy missives I regularly publish here.

This is what I wrote back then:

Had off part of work last week and this is what I did:

– Took 4 yo son to see “The Muppets,” which he later declared “stupid” despite  sitting in rapt attention @ seat’s edge during the actual film.

– Ran about 50 miles on treadmill @ the gym while watching movies on my iPad. Not as bad as it sounds.  Clearly, I have been in an extended coma to not have realized this Ryan Gosling guy existed.

– Drank annual Grande, non-fat, extra hot, no whip gingerbread latte. Meh. Not as good as I remembered, but at least this year I didn’t spill most of it on my coat or notice the barista spitting in it for giving that order.

– Went to Old Navy for first time in several years. Left with 2 overflowing bags and then immediately felt guilty because someone, somewhere is being exploited when fleece vests cost $7.

– Sent wedding gift to friend who got married over Labor Day and baby gift to friend who had baby in October. At least these events were both in 2011.

– Spread out all Xmas gifts in dining room for wrapping (not done). Smelled odd odor and discovered dog has been secretly peeing on dining room rug. Do not feel that bad about rug, as it was purchased from a tent sale in the parking lot at the mall.

– Renewed driver’s license at DMV. Their camera did not subtract 5 years or 15  pounds.

– Found an unopened bottle of my favorite wine that was not drinking itself. Rectified situation. Watched a hilarious SNL with Spouse (a ritual now 20+ years old, although in college it was pre-partying) and woke up slightly worse for the wear.  Fortunately, I have experience in this arena and can handle it well.

Sigh. Back to the grind tomorrow.

Minus the interval of five years, I can’t say that anything else has changed.